Bulgarian MPs ask caretaker Cabinet to renegotiate terms of EU post-Covid stimulus

Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on January 12 to require the country’s caretaker Cabinet to renegotiate with the European Commission part of the recovery and resilience plan, the key document for receiving 6.3 billion euro in EU funding from the bloc’s post-Covid recovery stimulus package.

The motion passed with 187 votes in favour, two opposed and nine abstentions.

The specific section in Bulgaria’s national recovery and resilience plan (RRP) to receive NextGenerationEU funding refers to the country’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and phase out coal-powered thermal plants by 2038.

As part of the energy sector decarbonisation reform, Bulgaria committed to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity production by 40 per cent in 2025, compared to 2019 levels.

Parliament’s decision requires the caretaker Cabinet to begin talks with the European Commission to remove the 40 per cent CO2 emissions cut and any restrictions on the operations of coal power plants until 2038.

It sets a deadline of March 31 for caretaker deputy PM in charge of EU funds Atanas Pekanov to file the formal request with the European Commission for the renegotiation of RRP’s terms.

Other changes to the RRP include the renegotiation of the distribution of EU funding, redirecting money earmarked for large-scale electricity storage facilities and renewable energy generation, including a geothermal plant, towards grants for businesses and individuals purchasing small-scale battery storage, electric grid development and energy efficiency insulation for homes.

Additionally, MPs asked the caretaker Cabinet to secure the European Commission’s agreement to drop the proposed reform of removing gas grid operator Bulgartransgaz and electric grid operator ESO from Bulgarian Energy Holding, the umbrella corporation that controls state-owned assets in the energy sector.

But the key thrust of the debates preceding the vote was on preserving jobs in the mining industry and the coal power plants in the Maritsa basin in central Bulgaria. MPs from several groups argued against the CO2 reduction commitment, in particular, arguing that Bulgaria had already met EU emission cuts targets against the 1990 baseline.

As the issue was discussed inside Parliament, outside the National Assembly building several hundred trade union members from mines and power plants in the Maritsa basin gathered in support of the motion.

(Photo: parliament.bg)

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